Utah may not be exotic for people who live in the Southwest, but if you live in Portland, Oregon, it doesn't get much more exotic. We just returned from a week in Utah, visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Escalante, Capitol Reef, and Salt Lake City. The flight from Portland, Oregon to Salt Lake City is only an hour and twenty minutes, but the differences are striking.
Portland is wet and rainy. Moss grows on everything. Utah is arid and very hot in the summer. Oregonians are of many different religions, and a high percentage are not affiliated with any church at all. Utah is predominantly Mormon - approximately 60% of residents statewide, with a much higher percentage in rural areas. We have children here in Oregon, but at a rate below the national average. Utah has the highest birthrate by far in the United States.
We were attracted to Utah by visions of this dry landscape and bright blue skies. The Mormon presence is very strong and you get the sense that the focus is on families and children. Although I have a certain appreciation for the grungy, tattooed and pierced Portland youth, I have to admit that I really enjoyed seeing so many clean-cut young men and women in Salt Lake City.
We did have a bit of culture shock, as we are accustomed to having at least one coffee establishment on every block in Portland. You never know when you might be overcome by caffeine deprivation. Here in Oregon, we also have a strong appreciation for beer and wine. In Utah, you may have difficulty finding a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, because the Mormon church forbids its followers from consuming alcohol, coffee or tea. In fact, you have to go to a special State liquor store to buy a bottle of wine. That may not sound like a big deal, but there are 243 incorporated municipalities in Utah and only 67 liquor stores in a state that covers 84,899 sq mi (219,899 sq km.)
I would like to explore Salt Lake City a bit more some day. We enjoyed visiting the Mormon Temple square and the Mormon Church History Museum. For some reason I felt compelled to buy these souvenirs from the museum gift shop. If you are amazed that anyone is making missionary action figures, you will be doubly amazed that there were four different sets to choose from. They all look equally wholesome, but have different stances and facial features.
It was a difficult decision, but I finally picked these guys: